How does one keep warm in the coldest place on the planet? Well, if you are an emperor penguin you are born with the downy feather tools to keep you warm and endure the long Austral winter. Emperor penguins are unique in this respect as they have developed all the thermoregulatory mechanisms suited for the cold environment, including warm inner downy feathers, sturdy wind and waterproof outer feathers, an incredible ability to shunt blood to their outer extremities and direct blood towards their vital organs such as their eyes, and of course the huddling behavior they exhibit to share body heat. (If you have not looked up thermal images of penguins during the winter, you should probably do that quickly and return to this blog… you will not regret it.) But what about our team of beach-dwelling Californians? How will our team manage to keep warm in temperatures that can drop below -40 degrees Celsius and in the windiest environment on the planet?
After arriving in New Zealand, the penguin team headed to the Antarctic center to get their clothing issued for this season. At the center, a kind and familiar face greeted us at the door, our friend Lou. For those of you who have not met Lou, he is like the Q (from the 007 movies) of the Antarctic New Zealand program but instead of outfitting us with gadgets and speedy cars, Lou walks us through many walls of the latest in warmth apparel. The walls were covered in a sea of orange and black jackets, coveralls and boots when if worn all at the same time are rated down to -70 degrees Celsius. As we passed by to our changing rooms Lou also handed us our very own Icebreakers thermals, sleek and downy extreme weather gear, and yuuuup a pair of possum and merino fur gloves.
Thanks to our friend Lou our team will manage to keep warm and imitate the natural abilities of penguins with our downy jackets, merino wool thermals and possum fur gloves.